Childhood artifacts are central to Sheila Keefe Ortiz’s “Playground” series. The
progression goes from a sketch of the objects to a finished painting like “Hush
SOME OF THESE pieces connect to her
WBM may 2018
childhood, both in atmosphere and
in depicting artifacts of significance.
Arranging them in a range of styles and
scenes, the series reads like pages in a
children’s book, where the
viewer must infer the missing text. This
narrative capacity and the intentionally nondescript back-drops
encourage viewers to fill in the story with their own
memories and to reminisce on a beloved but bygone time.
Keefe Ortiz was a dancer for 15 years before becoming a
visual artist, and sees parallels between the mediums.
“I loved the movement, and gesture really reminds me
of dance,” she says. “The essential line of the object is really
important in this style of work, and it carries through from the
drawing to the final product. It’s an incredibly honest form.”
This sense of movement, honesty and grace is visible
across her body of work — from completely abstracted mood
scenes to dainty watercolors of roses. A particular impera-tive
is finding honesty and beauty in her surroundings. This
means that local charm appears often in her recent work.
Pieces like “Azalea,” an intimate 6x9-inch watercolor depiction
of the local flower in an arresting purple sitting atop a dreamy
sky-blue background, reveal some of the sources of meaning
and inspiration she has found in her relatively new home.
Her art is ultimately about sharing beauty and hope with
“I want the work to be pleasing and beautiful and soothing,”
she says. “I want to contribute beauty and balance and respect
for the process. I want to say something about the world that
I live in and the beauty that I appreciate; to give the world
something worth looking at or thinking about.”